Four members of the U.S. House proposed easier rules for selling food to Cuba on Thursday, such as letting Cuba pay U.S. banks directly instead of routing the money through foreign banks.
The legislation also would clarify the meaning of cash sales to Cuba. The Bush administration says Cuba must pay before ships leave U.S. ports. The bill would allow payment before delivery in Havana.
U.S. farm and agribusiness groups see Cuba as a natural, nearby market. For years they have campaigned for sales despite the overall U.S. embargo on trade with the island. Food sales have been permitted since 2000.
Rep. Jerry Moran, Kansas Republican, said in a statement “this is an opportune time to encourage the United States to change its trade policies toward Cuba.” He cited the decision by Cuban President Fidel Castro to temporarily give up power.
“In addition to the clear benefits that opening this market would have for our domestic producers, millions of Cubans are in need of access to a safe and abundant food supply,” said Rep. Stephanie Herseth, South Dakota Democrat and a sponsor of the bill with Moran, Missouri Republican Jo Ann Emerson and Arkansas Democrat Mike Ross.
The sponsors said the bill would:
—direct the State Department to issue general licenses to producers’ groups to facilitate sales trips to Cuba.
—allow temporary visas for Cubans to come to the United States to buy U.S. agricultural goods or inspect them for shipment.
—define “payment of cash in advance” to mean payment by the time of delivery.
—allow Cuban banks to send money directly to U.S. banks.